About this Famous Person
Harry S. TRUMAN
33rd President of the United States
Truman was born the oldest child of John Anderson Truman (1851–1914) and Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852–1947). His parents chose the name Harry after his mother's brother, Harrison Young (1846–1916), Harry's uncle. His parents chose "S" as his middle name in an attempt to please both of Harry's grandfathers. The initial did not actually stand for anything, a common practice among the Scots-Irish. A brother, John Vivian (1886–1965), soon followed, along with sister Mary Jane Truman (1889–1978).
In his autobiography, Truman stated, "I was named for ... Harrison Young. I was given the diminutive Harry and, so that I could have two initials in my given name, the letter S was added. My Grandfather Truman's name was Anderson Shippe [sometimes also spelled 'Shipp'] Truman and my Grandfather Young's name was Solomon Young, so I received the S for both of them." He once joked that the S was a name, not an initial, and it should not have a period, but official documents and his presidential library all use a period. The Harry S. Truman Library has numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Truman's lifetime where his own use of a period after the S is conspicuous. The Associated Press Stylebook has called for a period after the S since the early 1960s, when Truman indicated he had no preference. However, the use of a period after his middle initial is not universal. Prior to 2008, his official White House biography did not use it. All official United States Navy listings of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) include the period after the S.
Truman's bare initial caused an unusual slip when he first became president and took the oath of office. At a meeting in the Cabinet Room, Chief Justice Harlan Stone began reading the oath by saying "I, Harry Shipp Truman, ...". Truman responded: "I, Harry S. Truman, ...".
John Truman was a farmer and livestock dealer. The family lived in Lamar until Harry was ten months old. They then moved to a farm near Harrisonville, then to Belton, and in 1887 to his grandparents' 600 acre (240 ha) farm in Grandview. When Truman was six, his parents moved the family to Independence, so he could attend the Presbyterian Church Sunday School. Truman did not attend a traditional school until he was eight.